- Namu – What is it and Why do we say it?
- Eza/Elevation Training – What is it? Why do we participate in it?
Namu (Japanese, 南無, lit. devotion) from the Sanskrit word “namas” or “namo”, which means resigning one’s soul to something.
So when we chant (the core chant):
“Namu Shinnyo…” it means, “Devotion to the Truth.”
“Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo…” meaning, “Devotion to The Truth and Oneness.”
“Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo Dai-hatsu…” meaning, “Devotion to The Truth and Oneness with Greatness.”
“Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo Dai-hatsu Nehan…” meaning, “Devotion to The Truth and Oneness with the Great Nirvana/Heaven.”
And finally, “Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo Dai-hatsu Nehan Kyo,” meaning, “Devotion to The Truth and Oneness with The Great Nirvana/Heaven Sutra.”
Eza (Japanese, 会座, lit. seated meeting) – part of Shinnyo-en which bridges the world of esoteric buddhism with the lay follower practice is the creation of what I would describe as an “enlightenment preschool” of sorts. Eza, in the traditional esoteric sense, is the monastic practice of extended deep meditation and prayer, usually in an isolated environment (for example, a cave deep inside a mountain) for months or years of individual reflection and contemplation.
In an earlier podcast, I covered the topic of Shinnyo guided mediation, or Sesshin training. Well, just as missionary school is the training grounds for priests (or Dharma Teachers), Eza is the training process for those endeavoring to become spiritual guides for Sesshin training. Please note that these two disciplines, dharma teachers and spiritual guides, are complementary, but not co-dependent roles. That is there are dharma teachers who are not spiritual guides, and vice-versa. And through dedication and perseverance, you can achieve both in a single lifetime.
Eza, as practiced in Shinnyo-en, involves a gradual awakening of the heart and spirit towards a seeking of pure truth. You can view the process of enlightenment as gradually increasing your awareness beyond the five primary senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch), to self-awareness, and finally beyond awareness of the self, to awareness of others and everything. It is awareness without judgement nor critique. Enlightenment embraces the development of yourself into a mirror of your surroundings, void of coloration and filtering, and yet, able to reflect the innate goodness present within each and every living being.
Since spiritual elevation is part of the esoteric practice, or put simply, the part of the buddhist practice that comes with experience, knowledge, education and self-development, there is no “Step 1, 2, 3 and presto, you’re elevated!” kind of project plan. Some people progress very quickly, and others can take decades. But as with most things in life, it is the journey itself that brings the most fulfillment and reward, not the goal. And philosophically, since attachment is one of the things we seek to lessen (and please, do be aware that the definition of “attachment” for the purposes of Buddhism is often misinterpreted, because of the original translation from sanskrit was a closest-matching definition, and not an exact matching word), ultimately it is the freedom from being goal-centric and more process-centric that begins to eliminate the worry and stress over whether we get there, or not.
For now, I will relay what I have been taught by the many who came before me: Have gratitude in your heart for the opportunity to train each day. Be determined to succeed no matter what direction your path takes, and how many obstacles are presented to you (because you are prepared for them, even if you think you aren’t.) And focus your energies, thoughts, and spirit on becoming one with all that flows around you. Through your daily practice, eventually your perspective will have changed. And one day, when you were always looking up at the skies above you, you will find yourself among the same very clouds and sky, ready to take the next step in your path.